Monday, October 3, 2016

Meeting Emily

With announcements blaring and stadium lights searing through the football field, I stood square in front of a group of high school colorguard girls. I can't believe she did that to him, she's so stupid! I overheard, along with I know. She's not even that pretty. Of course, they forget I can hear them because I am an adult. So I pretended as if I heard nothing, praying that it was nothing more than a frustrated conversation regarding a girl from one of their classes that I didn't know.

She doesn't even know what's going on half the time. And did you see her hair? She really needs to figure that out. 

It was about colorguard, that much I knew for sure. But from what I knew about the previous events from that evening, I was also pretty sure I knew exactly who they were talking about. And for the record? The girl's hair was fine.

Fast forward to a few days later, when I waltzed into a kindergarten classroom for the first time this semester. New school, new cooperating teacher, new kiddos. I was a little nervous, as to be expected on the first day of anything, and the nerves escalated quickly as the children whispered to one another upon my arrival. Every teacher wants to do a good job, but more than that, they want to be liked. And if we're all being honest, that's not just a trait for teachers. It's not just a trait for women. We all desire to be liked.

I hadn't even stood up before a little girl (we'll call her Emily) in a pair of purple polka-dot leggings was already behind me. Her long chestnut hair was pulled into a high ponytail. Her bright blue eyes shone with passion. In her arms, she held a book clutched tightly against her chest. Would you look at that... I thought to myself, It's a little 5-year-old Bethany. 

"Hello!" she beamed and waved her hand ferociously. I smiled down to the sweet girl and returned her greeting. She smiled back. "I don't know you," she shrugged and cocked her head to the side, "but you look really beautiful today," she said and turned to skip away.

And people wonder why I enjoy little kids over high schoolers.

I'm here to ask an honest question. Ladies, what on earth happened to us? How did we go from being sweet, innocent, complimentary little girls to scheming, deceptive, gossipy young women?

I don't know about you, but I am absolutely exhausted. I really miss the days of sweet smiles, twirly skirts, and plastic crowns. Remember when we felt genuinely beautiful? Remember when we felt captivatingly powerful? Don't you remember what it was like to feel worthy of praise and attention?

Maybe you don't, and that's what you're here searching for today. Maybe you never knew what it felt like to shine. But if you did, chances are high you're craving it again. You're becoming "needy." You're becoming "emotional." You're becoming some unacceptable ratio of too-much and not-enough. You aren't pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, or talented enough, but you're too needy, too emotional, too opinionated, and too sassy. Are you opinionated? Or are you intelligent? Are you sassy? Or are you confident? Maybe it all rides a fine line.

Or maybe it depends how you look at it.

When thinking about the differences between between my gossipy high schoolers and my sweet-spirited kindergartener, I couldn't help but notice something about myself. When I think a girl is pretty, smart, talented, etc., I make a note of it in my head. Sometimes it serves as a breeding ground for jealousy, but sometimes it remains nothing more than a brief compliment. But when I think a girl has something wrong with her, I feel the need to tell someone about it. Did you see her hair today? or Omg! I can't believe she said that to you! 

What if we complimented one another every time we thought about it? Or better yet, what if we held our tongue every time we sought to insult? Or perhaps best of all... What if we replaced our insults with compliments?

My first thought is how different the world could be. Girls wouldn't just be nicer, but we could be more confident. We could recognize some of the awesome parts of ourselves, rather than all the ways we seem to miserably fail at femininity.

My second thought is how overwhelmingly confused we would be. When that little girl told me I looked beautiful, I was dumbfounded. How long had it been since I'd heard that from someone who wasn't obligated to say it? Hearing it from a total stranger is much different than hearing it from your mom or a guy who's clearly in pursuit of you. This little girl wasn't biased, and she certainly wasn't in pursuit of anything. She was just an honest, genuine, confident little girl.

I would say that her brief, spontaneous act of sweet kindness brightened by day, but that happened last Tuesday. I've thought about her every day since then. I'm sitting here blogging about her a week later. She brightened my week, she convicted my heart, and she inspired me to be a better woman.

See what I mean when I say there's so much we can learn from little kiddos? It's my job to teach her to read and write. And I will. She'll get there. But I'm willing to bet she has just as much, if not more, to teach me. I'm learning from her already. And if we could all put her on our prayer lists right now, let's pray she remains that honest, that genuine, and that confident for as long as she lives. That little polka-dot panted 5-year-old is going to turn into one powerfully beautiful young lady, provided the world she grows up in doesn't completely ruin her.

Insult less. Compliment more. Let's all be a little more like little Emily.

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